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Hearing loss: signs, causes and effects

Adult hearing loss, as a rule, develops slowly over many years and, as such, hearing loss is not immediately noticeable. However, there are clear signs that your hearing is deteriorating.

Has it become difficult for you to understand telephone conversations? Has it become harder to hold a conversation in noisy places like restaurants?

Does it seem to you that people around you are talking indistinctly, and do you find yourself asking them to repeat what they said more often than before?

Do you find it easier to keep up a conversation when you can see the person talking to you?

These are all typical signs of hearing loss. At the same time, the first reaction typically is denial. It’s followed by accusing others that they are mumbling, speaking quietly or indistinctly, and that the TV volume is too low. For many, it is difficult to recognize that they are losing their hearing. The idea of wearing hearing aids is simply terrifying: “I will look, and — most importantly — feel hopelessly old!”

But think about it. Hearing loss affects people of all ages. According to statistics, 1 in 5 North Americans suffer from hearing loss in varying degrees. Speaking about the types of hearing impairment, experts recall the following:

  1. Conductive hearing loss – is associated with external and middle ear problems. It often occurs as a result of the formation of obstacles that prevent sound from penetrating the inner ear. Some causes of this disorder are: swimmer’s ear; an increase of sulfur in the outer ear; and sudden exposure to loud noise.
  2. Sensorineural hearing loss – is due to damage to the inner ear. As a rule, with such hearing loss, the hair cells of the inner ear, which transmit a sound signal to the cochlea, are extremely damaged. However, it can also occur as a result of the disruption of the auditory nerve, which is responsible for transmitting the incoming signals to the brain. Some causes are: constant exposure to loud noise; side effects of drugs (for example, drugs used in chemotherapy); genetic factors; and aging.
  3. Mixed type – which is characterized by a combination of the first two types.

In many cases, conductive hearing loss can be cured by medication, while sensorineural impairment usually requires the use of hearing aids.

The task of all hearing aids is to make sound clearer. Cheap devices achieve this by simply amplifying ANY sound. Higher quality hearing aids filter out background noise so that you can more effectively recognize sounds.

Implications of hearing loss and health effects

Studies show that:

  • Elderly people, even with minor hearing loss (25 dB), experience falls three times more often, and every additional 10 dB of hearing loss increases the risk of falls about 1.5x. This is due to lack of environmental awareness as well as due to the additional load on the brain that hearing loss gives, reducing its resources for balance and safety.
  • Hearing loss causes stress that depresses immunity – which in its turn leads to more frequent colds, flu and other infectious diseases.
  • Deterioration in the perception of the speech of others, problems with communication and possible social isolation increase the risk of depression.
  • Hearing impairment is associated with impaired memory, speech, and abstract thinking; decreased productivity; and, according to the recent studies, the risk of dementia in the elderly.

So, if you notice that you are losing your hearing, the sooner that you begin to act, the better. At the first signs, which are described in this article, contact the experts. Remember, the use of hearing aids will not make you look older, especially small-sized hearing aids (made from transparent or skin-tone materials) are invisible when worn. You will look much older if you’re repeatedly asking others what they said, skipping parts of conversation, and responding inappropriately! Stay young, hearing clearly and participating in conversations with confidence and without hesitation.

In our next issue we will tell you about types of hearing aids for children and adults. Follow our publications and stay healthy!

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